AST Records Masters D2C


How stand-up label “A Special Thing Records” created a one of a kind store using Single’s direct to fan distribution tools

The landscape of comedy wouldn’t be the same today if it weren’t for “A Special Thing (AST).” In the early 2000’s, Matt Belknap founded AST as an online message board to discuss the debut album of Jack Black and Kyle Gass’s comedy-rock outfit “Tenacious D.” In the weeks following its release, Belknap did write-ups of their shows on the platform for those who weren’t able to make it themselves. His coverage eventually expanded to comedy shows held at the “M-Bar” in Hollywood, and fans on the message board continued to seek his latest recaps. As such, conversation on AST shifted to encompass the greater west-coast comedy scene and beyond.

The platform gradually became the go-to destination for this burgeoning community, and a number of the comedians themselves began to contribute to the site as a means to connect to their fans. With greats like Scott Aukerman and Maria Bamford regularly posting on the platform, the popularity of AST grew well beyond what Belknap could have imagined.

A few years later, Belknap was approached by his friend Ryan McManemin at a comedy show in Los Angeles. A regular of the AST message board himself, McManemin expressed interest in beginning an independent stand-up record label. Using Belknap’s message board as the label’s foundation, they announced the creation of “A Special Thing Records” in late 2006. Jen Kirkman’s “Self Help” arrived in February of the following year as the label’s first release, and it was met with widespread acclaim from across the world of comedy. Momentum snowballed from there, and AST records now represents some of comedy’s biggest stars. 

AST today

Nearly 20 years later, AST continues to innovate its online platform in order to provide their fans with the best customer experience possible. Using Single powered Boostlinks and D2C Digital Delivery as the foundation for their webstore, the label has developed an impeccably user-friendly and streamlined sales medium for all things comedy.

Boostlinks

The website homepage introduces visitors to two categories: A list of AST’s latest releases, as well as a selection of artists on their roster. From there, all comedy material on the site is accessible, made possible in part through their implementation of Boostlinks.

In this case, Boostlinks are used as smart link landing pages that provide fans access to every platform that an artist’s album is available on with a single click. The flexibility of Boostlinks allows them to be applied in many ways - like smart receipts - but they’re used for organization in the case of AST.  Doing so provides a practical way to display many albums with quick links that provide immediate access to them. When selected, the user is directed to a landing page that lists these listening platforms, giving them easy access to listen to said artist on their service of choice.


With over twenty platforms supported, artists can maximize the number of outlets from which their work can be heard. Even before a record’s release date, these links can be used to give fans the opportunity to pre-order or pre-save the project, and it will appear in their library instantly when it comes out.


Interactions with Boostlinks can be digitally tracked, making it easier than ever to determine which platforms fans are using most. 

Direct to Consumer Digital Delivery

The primary link on each landing page enables the customer to purchase a song or album directly from the label store. It’s no secret that this is the best way to support the artists and labels we love.

The order pages for records on their website give a description of the artist and the project itself, encouraging users to explore their releases and pick the right album for them. For digital purchases, the tracklist is visible, as well as the ability to preview a 30 second snippet of each individual track. These can be bought individually, or as a complete project. With the option to download the audio files in MP3, WAV, or FLAC format, customers once again have maximum flexibility in their purchase. 

With a fixed purchase fee of just 15 cents per track, capped at $2 for albums with over 13 tracks, artists maximize their profits when they make sales through Single. Albums can also be tied to pre-order bundles containing physical merch, for which there is no purchase fee. Thus, artists maintain 100% of their merchandise revenue, and said revenue is sent directly to them.

Tying it all together

Boostlinks and D2C delivery through Single bring many of today’s top artists countless benefits, though AST Records’ implementation of these services bring them to the next level. Many labels densely pack their websites with information outside of what’s useful to casual fans, making them difficult to navigate and ultimately uninviting. With Boostlinks and D2C functioning as the backbone of AST’s site, however, access to their content is brought to the forefront. Countless records and where they can be enjoyed are just a few clicks away, making AST Records feel more like an access point for the comedy community instead of a traditional label website. As such, a visit to their website isn’t limited to making a purchase. It invites users to explore their roster and discover new artists they may not have otherwise. 

Just like the AST message board functioned as a hub for comedy in the early aughts, the company’s online presence today still serves the community in an invaluable way. Thanks to innovative use of these newly available marketing tools, the company continues to break new ground.